Monday, September 1, 2014

Proust, Eat Your Heart Out. New York Deli Style Black and White Cookies.

   Everybody's got a certain food something that rockets them back to childhood, a Philly Cheese Steak, those fries they call Poutine, Red Beans and Dirty Rice, Slow cooked Sunday gravy with Pasta. What ever it is, it says HOME in big bright neon letters. Probably the most famous guy with a food craving was Proust and his madeleine cookies

Proust was so enthused about these little gems that they wound up on school reading lists everywhere. Closer to home, like right around here, the big cookie memory revolves around New York Deli-style Black and White Cookies.
   Alan was born in the Bronx and lived all over New York city. He's got memories of candy stores, clubs, egg creams, living in Alphabet City, going to NYU, riding the Staten Island Ferry and the subway, everything New York has to offer. As Jay Z says, that's a lot.

   Alan also grew up eating Black and White Cookies. Not being a New Yorker, I'd never heard of them until I met him. Black and White Cookies orginated when bakeries had left over cake batter. This was in the days before twee little cupcakes were in fashion. The thrifty bakers turned batter into big hand sized cookies. The cookies have a yellow cake texture and rise up into puffy mounds similar to muffin tops. They're then flipped over and the flat bottoms are frosted generously, half with vanilla, half with chocolate.

   Black and Whites aren't just found in New York. They're also found in that home away from home for so many New Yorkers, LA.  Canters, Juniors, Nate and Al's, the delis of LA bake a mean Black and White. Many nights were spent hanging out in these places watching Alan and his fellow ex-New Yorkers go nuts over these cookies. Now, living in Sonoma, the only way he can get a decent Black and White is when we're in LA on business. He discovered there are quite a few New Yorkers now living up here in wine country and they missed these cookies too. This led to Alan talking to the owner of the best bakery here in Sonoma, Scandia, asking her if she could please make Black and White Cookies.

Marcella is a real artist.

She's also a perfectionist. She said she would love to offer Black and Whites but she needed a truly great recipe. A recipe that would make all the exiled New Yorkers here in town go "Wow!"  when they tasted them. She said that if I could bring her a great Black and White recipe she'd swap me that for a Taj Mahal Cake. The challenge was on! I had to find a cookie that made the Sonoma-New Yorkers go nuts. I found a basic Black and White recipe on Epicurious and tweaked it a few times. I spent the last week baking and it seems that I finally got it right.

New York Black and White Cookies

Here's What You Need:

2 and 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup of buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup of unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs

( vanilla icing)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbs light corn syrup
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs water

(chocolate icing)
1 1/2  cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs light corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Here's What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or use a silicone mat on a cookie sheet if you don't want the extra butter. set these aside.
Whisk together the flour...

...baking soda and salt.

Set them aside
In the  bowl of a mixer cream together the unsalted butter...

...and the sugar.

Mix them together slowly until they're pale yellow and fluffy, this takes about 3 minutes.

Add two eggs to the butter and sugar mix.

Keep beating until the eggs are combined.
Add 1 tsp of vanilla to the buttermilk.

Mix the flour and the buttermilk into this separately in small batches, alternating them, starting and finishing with the flour.

Keep the beater speed on low while doing this.
Mix everything together until it's smooth.

Drop large globs of batter onto the cookie sheet.  (abt 1/4 cups worth) keep them 2 inches apart as they'll spread some.

Bake them in the middle of the oven for about 15  minutes or so.

They'll start to puff up.

When they're puffed and lightly golden, make sure they spring back at your touch.

If they do, they're done.
Place them on a cookie rack to cool and start making your icings.
For each icing mix together the powdered sugar, vanilla, corn syrup and water.

Whisk everything together until it's thick and smooth.
If the icing is too thick, add a bit more water. If it's too thin, more powdered sugar.
Do the same thing making the chocolate icing.

Since you are using unsweetened cocoa, taste the chocolate icing and make sure you have the desired sweetness. This is a matter of taste.
 Turn the cookies flat side up, and frost what used to be the bottom.

To get a smooth line of frosting, dip your frosting knife in some cool water. Oh, and Alan says don't be stingy with the frosting. It should be thick.

Let the iced cookies set so the frosting can harden.

When the icing is firm, the vanilla side should have barely visible fine cracks in it like the lines on ice. This is coming from him by the way,  he says new Yorkers can tell.
When the cookies are ready serve them up.

We took a bunch over to our friend Bruce's store Salsa Trading Company . Bruce is another ex New Yorker. The guys tasted, and I got notes.

Sort of like turning in a script, if someone were eating it instead of reading it. I wound up making three batches of cookies, the recipe above was the final product. This recipe makes 8 large cookies. I'll be making more of them and taking them to Marcella later this week.
   Now these guys want to have a blind tasting, my Black and Whites against the real deal New York cookies. I'm supposed to make the cookies, then they'll order some by mail and then hold mine until the ordered ones arrive or some such bullshit. I think it's just an excuse to eat more cookies. Coming next and Indian gluten free alternative to the fried and the breaded. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Cool Drink For A Hot August Day, Horchata Goes Indian.

   One of the things I developed a taste for after living in Los Angeles for so long was a nice cooling glass of horchata. This ancient drink made of water, ground nuts, sugar, rice, spices, seeds and what have you stretches throughout the Spanish speaking world. Each country has their own version of this refreshing milky drink, and along with a nice glass of Lychee boba, is one of the two beverages that I can't get here in Sonoma. Okay, I take that back, I can get a very good horchata here given that Sonoma was the capital of Mexico's province of Alta California. As for the boba I'm still working on that one.

    The reason I've been fantasizing about horchata all goes back to the case of food poisoning I got last month. I'm pretty much recovered, except for my stomach. I'm still eating a very simple diet which has taken me vegan for the last month. It's pretty easy for me to eat a vegetarian diet as I was a vegetarian for years starting back when I was a teenager. In fact as my relatives reminded me at the family wedding I attended back in July, back in the day, I was the first vegetarian any of them had ever seen. When I first started cooking Indian food 25 years ago it was vegetarian Indian food only. My doctor advised me to introduce new foods slowly, simple things,vegetables and rice  etc.  Which brings me to horchata. A simple drink made of water, soaked ground rice, and spices. Just what the doctor ordered!
   I could have gone over to El Molino Central and just bought some but then I would have been tempted by all the delicious stuff they serve and would probably do something stupid to my stomach that I would regret. I decided to make my own. But rather than leave well enough alone, I wondered if there was an Indian version of horchata our there. Since the spice profiles in Hispanic food and Indian food have a lot of overlap I figured there must be. Sure enough, there was. The most common recipe out there was the one I found on My Recipes and a lot of other sites. It seemed everybody and their uncle had made this Indian flavored horchata, so why not add me to the list?

Horchata With Indian Spices

Here's what You Need:
1 cup of basmati rice
3 and 1/2 cups of water
1 cinnamon stick
3 green cardamom pods cracked open
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla
1/3 cup of sugar

Here"s What To Do:
Scoop 1 cup of clean basmati rice into a food processor.

Grind it up into small bits.

This takes a while.

Pour it into a bowl along with 3 1/2 cups of water and the cinnamon stick and cardamom seeds.

Add in the vanilla and sugar.

Stir everything around until it's well mixed.

Pour it into a container that can be covered.

Pop the top on and stick it into the fridge overnight.
The next day, pour the mixture into a blender. You can do this in two batches.

Grind everything up.
While the mixture is getting ground to bits, place cheese cloth over a bowl and get ready to strain your horchata.

Pour the liquid through the cheese cloth into the bowl.

Squeeze the liquid through the cloth.

Even though the recipe says to filter it though 3 layers of damp cheesecIoth, I  actually filtered mine 3 times to insure a nice smooth milky texture.

Third times the charm!
Finally pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

Then pour the strained horchata into a pitcher.


Pour the chilled horchata over a glass of ice.

And enjoy!

   There you have it, a perfectly refreshing drink for a hot August day unpacking moving boxes. Shortly after I made this horchata, I ran across a different recipe for it by Manjula which I can't wait to try. It's weird breaking in my new kitchen with such a simple recipe, but that's the breaks in  food poisoning land. Every day I add something new, yesterday it was apples and avocados. Coming up next dal, easy to make easy on the stomach. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Desert Island Living. It's Baby Steps To Food.


I haven't been cooking for the last couple of weeks. I happened to get a very bad case of food poisoning that sent me to the hospital and even now that I have a clean bill of health, I'm taking my doctors advice and eating simply and cleanly. He advised me to introduce new foods slowly and after a couple of weeks living on coconut water, bananas, oatmeal, and simple baked potatoes, I feel as if I have been living the last few weeks on a desert island.
Also, in the middle of all these intestinal fun and games, we moved into the new house we bought. I now have the amazing kitchen we planned so carefully, except I'm not cooking anything in it!! I also am in a sea of boxes, and have no idea where most of my equipment is, as every box has either GLASS!! or CLAY!! scrawled all over it. As I muddle around my mess of cardboard, I have managed to locate several simple things that I've managed to transport from my borrowed kitchen to the new house. In fact I found enough things to make myself a simple treat. Horchata, and not just regular horchata which is delicious enough, but horchata with Indian spices. It has all the things that a recovering stomach could desire, water, rice, spices.
So a few minutes ago, I started horchata prep. It'll be done tomorrow and I'll be breaking out of my coconut, banana diet. I feel as though I've just been rescued.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Where I've Been: Bug Fix.

   Last Thursday night my doctor sent me to the emergency room. I was having a LOT of discomfort and running a fever. The fact that I felt so rotten at the time was what actually moved me to call the doctor instead of just blowing it off as an upset stomach. I'm glad I did. It seems that I got food poisoned somewhere along the line last week while my new kitchen was being installed. I had one week where instead of cooking simply for us as I usually do, we ate out every day. After waiting 6 days flat on my back for the hospital to turn up the exact bug that was bugging me, last evening my doctor told me they'd nailed it. I had Campylobacter, and I'd be hearing from the Health Department. The doctor changed the drug they'd been treating me with as that tricky bug seemed to be resistant to it and put me on something more likely to do the job.

   Campy, (hey he's been crashing in my gut for the last week I can be familiar) seems to be most frequently caused by undercooked or contaminated chicken. Irony of ironies, I have eaten no chicken. It can also be caused by cutting raw chicken and then cutting something else with the same kitchen tools or on the same surface. Even washing chicken in a kitchen and splashing the water on something else aka my salad, can make one sick.I wash things around my house like a rabid raccoon. I've always got my hands under the faucet, and this whole business of washing chicken leads me to think more about this whole air-chilled chicken thing and how important that can be in preventing disease. Also, keeping ones' kitchen clean. So I guess there will be some follow up checks at the places I ate last week.
   Meanwhile, My kitchen's in, but I'm out of it. Upstairs in bed, the new antibiotic tossing down the nail strips calling a halt to the high speed joy ride Campy's been having in my gut for the last week. Hoping to be back at work in my new kitchen very soon. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Best Of Summer. Sweet Corn and Chipotle Chili Ice Cream with Walnut Chili Brittle. Thanks OXO!

    For the last several months I haven't been doing a whole lot of cooking. I've been operating out of a  borrowed kitchen while our new house is being remodeled. I've been cooking out of the boxes I've carried from our old house to our temporary rental and as a result of my careful planning, I can't find most of the stuff I brought with me. That's even if I did bring it with me because I realize some stuff may be in storage. My answer to cooking out of my many mystery boxes has led me to only make the simplest dishes. So, when an opportunity came along to try out some ice cream tools from OXO of course I said yes!  What's simpler than ice cream? Not much it turns out, provided one can find their ice cream machine. That was a little trickier in my case.
   After a rummage through a nest of boxes, in the temporary garage, I located the machine, but my metal ice cream storage containers were nowhere to be found. No problem as it turned out, since OXO sent along a terrific container that worked beautifully and took up very little space in the freezer. After that, my only challenge was to come up with a flavor of ice cream that made the best of a Sonoma summer.
   I wandered through the Farmers Market but nothing particularly caught my eye until I saw the Sweet Summer Corn. Having raised parrots, I was familiar with the charms of sweet corn and of Alex the Genius parrots' love for it.

   Sweet corn, soft corn, ice cream. It seemed like a natural connection. Yeah, right. In LA I remember the elotes vendors who'd push their carts around the neighborhood and would be parked outside of the school yards every afternoon, mobbed by kids enjoying the sweet corn on a stick loaded with contijo cheese, mayo and spices. Then there were the Tamal Dulce with sugar and raisins at Tamales Lilianas in East LA. This place is so good they have two locations!

Anyway, before I make myself any hungrier fantasizing about tamales that are 500+ miles away from me.... the logic went like this, if I can eat sweet corn tamales, why not sweet corn ice cream?

Sweet Corn and Chipotle Chili Ice Cream With Walnut Chipotle Brittle


Here's What You Need:
2 ears of sweet white corn
2 cups of cream
2 cups of milk
3/4 cup of sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/8 to 1/4 tsp of ground chipotle chili
2 cups walnut halves
1/4 cup of sugar
3 Tbs unsalted butter
chipotle chili to taste
a pinch of Kosher salt

Here's What To Do:
Shuck, wash and remove the kernels from two ears of corn.

Set them aside.
Pour 2 cups of cream into a large pot.

Add in 2 tsp of good quality vanilla. I use Gaya Mexican Vanilla but any good brand will do.

Add in 3/4 cup of sugar.

Bring the cream, sugar, and vanilla to a low simmer.
When the mixture starts to simmer, add in the kernels of corn.
Let the corn simmer for about 3 or 4 minutes until it's slightly tender.
Take the mixture off the fire and add in 2 cups of milk.

Add in the ground chipotle chili.

About The Chili:
Add it slowly and in small amounts. Let it sit for a bit to let the heat develop before you add more as you want to get the heat to a desirable level.This is a total matter of taste. 

Before putting the mixture into your ice cream machine let it chill in the fridge for several hours or even overnight as I did so the flavors can mellow. Before you put the ice cream in the machine check the flavor again for heat. If it's okay with your taste buds, you're good to go.

Pour the ice cream into your machine.

 When it's churned and read scoop it out...

...and into a freezer-safe container.

Since I usually use metal containers I was a bit suspicious as to whether or not the OXO freezer box would deliver a tight enough seal. I should have known better....

OXO, great as usual. Also, it fit perfectly into the freezer of the fridge I'm using.

Once the ice cream goes into the fridge to set up for a bit, make the Walnut Chipotle Brittle.
Patsy was an eager audience.

Add 3 Tbs of butter to a skillet.
As it melts add in add 1/4 cup of sugar.

Stir it all together.

Let it all melt together.
When the caramel has thickened add the nuts to the mixture...

...and 1/4 tsp of Kashmiri chili.

Stir it all together. If it starts to thicken up too much just put it back on the heat to soften it.
Pour it onto a heatproof plate or silicone mat,  (which is what I would have used had I been able to find mine. I substituted a paper plate.)

Sprinkle the whole with a bit of sea salt and  your are done. Let it harden a cool for a bit.
When you are ready to serve it up, chop your nut brittle.

I used the nifty chopper I got from OXO.

One little push, and bingo. It's done.

Scoop the Sweet Corn Ice Cream into a bowl and scatter some of the chopped Walnut Brittle on top.

   There it is, the best of summer's corn in a dessert bowl. Sweet Corn Ice Cream. Was it good? The cream was suffused with the taste of the corn, the crunch of the nut brittle in the mix was perfect and at the end there was a nice heat to the whole thing. It was like eating cracker jack ice cream. Enough said. Definitely a keeper.

   Thanks to OXO for giving me such perfect tools to work with. I always love their stuff and buy it for my kitchen, but right here, right now, working out of temporary quarters, I couldn't have done this without them. Plus, I always love anyone who gives me an excuse to make ice cream.
 Coming up next, a Summer drink with Indian  flavors. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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